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Is Anti-LGBT Violence On The Rise?

August 4, 2009

03israle.xlarge4This past week has not been a pleasant one for the international LGBT community. Two separate attacks occurred during the 2009 World Outgames, held last week in Copenhagen — three men were beaten outside of Copenhagen’s town hall after the opening night ceremony, and bombs were thrown into Osterbro Stadium at the start of a track event on Tuesday. And on Saturday, an unidentified assailant killed two people and injured at least 15 more outside of a community center for LGBT youth in Tel Aviv. This most recent attack, in particular, has incited outrage across the globe — Towleroad has a list of vigils planned in the U.S. and abroad in memory of the shooting’s victims.

All three of these tragic events have received a fair amount of media attention, which is a step in the right direction — these hate crimes deserve all of the attention they’ve received, and then some. But little, if any, of the media coverage is addressing the larger issue at hand: these incidents are symptomatic of a recent rise in anti-LGBT violence around the world.

Some have been quick to characterize these events as isolated. Dean Koga, an athlete who was injured during the bombing at Outgames, discussed his reaction to the bombing on Outsports.com:

“People were undeterred,” Koga said. They had races to run and field events to perform and Koga was gearing up for the 800 meters. He has raced at five Gay Games and two Outgames and was not about to quit.”It’s a wonderful event,” he said. “It’s too bad, but this is an isolated incident.”

I admire Koga’s determination, and I am thrilled that his injury did not prevent him from continuing to participate in the games. But is it really fair to call this — or any of the other recent attacks against LGBT people — isolated?

Patricia Nell Warren, of The Bilerico Project, disagrees with Koga’s assertion:

Koga and other Outgames competitors may hope that this is only an “isolated incident.” But the fact is — all across Europe recently, anti-gay violence is ramping up — attacks on gay men in long-tolerant Amsterdam, the murder of a transgender person in Portugal, ugly incidents at Pride events in Russia and Hungary. Like the U.S., many EU countries have yet to commit to reporting, and vigorously prosecuting, hate crimes against LGBT people.

Warren continues to explain that, particularly in Europe, the rise in violence against LGBT people may be tied to an increase in violence against minorities in general, including Jews, Muslims, and immigrants.

I can’t speculate as to why incidents of violence against queer people are increasing now, or whether or not this increase in violence is connected to an increase in violence against any other marginalized group of people, but I do agree with Warren that anti-LGBT violence is on the rise, all around the world. A week and a half ago, the National Coalition 0f Anti-Violence Programs released its 2008 Hate Violence Report, which found that there has been a 28% increase in hate crimes against LGBT people across the United States this past year. Independently, news sources from around the world have noted increases in anti-LGBT violence in their respective nations. This might not constitute hard evidence, but it’s difficult not to notice a disturbing pattern.

I’m glad the recent tragedies in Copenhagen and Tel Aviv are being discussed in the blogosphere and in the mainstream media. I’m glad that attention is being drawn toward these horrific events, so we can all see what happened and realize the reality of anti-LGBT violence around the world. But I wish each of these events were being talked about in a broader context. I wish the media would show the connection between these events, because even if we don’t know what has caused this new wave of violence, it’s clear that these incidents aren’t occurring in a vacuum.

What are your thoughts? Was last week a particularly bad week for LGBT folks around the world, or is there a larger problem of anti-queer violence growing? And, if so, what can we do to stop it — or, if we can’t stop it, how can we convince the media to start addressing the real problem?

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